As I wait for my newest phone to arrive, the images of all the phones I’ve used over the years came to mind.  It’s hard not to compare the progression of the phone in my own lifetime to the fast changing have-to-have phones of today.

My parents moved us to Tulsa when I was about 2 1/2 years old and the first phone that I can remember was located in a little phone room, no bigger than a closet, and looked like this, I think.  I’m pretty sure we had dials by then. Unknown

There was only one phone in the house, the one in the closet.  One of the wicked things I did when I got old enough was to sneak in there and call the operator to make a call to my grandmother.  My grandmother’s phone was even more interesting.  She lived in Ardmore and was on a party line.  You picked up the receiver to talk to the operator, who knew everyone, and had her call whoever you needed.  My grandmother had a special ring to let her know a call was for her.  The neatest thing was to pick it up very quietly and listen to the other people’s conversations, which wasn’t very nice, but oh so interesting to a curious little girl.

Our phone number at home was 75973 for many years.  When they added prefixes, it became RIverside 75973.  My father’s office number started with the prefix GIbson and I spent a week one summer when I was about 9 or 10 at his office handwriting the GIbson in front of the number on some postcards that had been printed earlier.

Through the years, not much changed with our black dial phones.  Then plastics came into wide use and we suddenly had colors and plastic dials.  When we built our new house when I was in 5th grade, we had beige phones and there were three, count ’em, three in the house.  There was a black wall phone in the kitchen, a beige desk phone in my parents’ bedroom and another beige phone in the hallway in a little cut-out holder in the wall.  That was for my brother, sister, and me to use.

The Princess model was a big hit when I was in junior high school, especially the pink one.  Girls with a pink princess phone were pretty cool.  We didn’t get the pink model, however.  Eventually, we got something just as good – a long cord from the wall so we could carry the phone into a closet or another room to talk privately.  With the hours we spent on the phone as teenagers, talking to friends we had just left about who we’d seen, who was going steady with who, who had looked twice at us, who we had a crush on, what we were going to do the next day or the next weekend, what to wear, how tiring our parents were, and other important topics, you just needed some privacy.  Really.   And the time we spent waiting by the phone for someone to call…sigh.

When I went to college, there was a phone on the wall in each hallway of the dorm, but you couldn’t make long distance calls from it.  For that, we went downstairs to a bank of pay phones with a pile of change.  To make a long distance call, back in 1963, you had to call the operator and have her (always female operators) dial it for you.  I was also able to charge calls to my parents’ phone through the operator.  I spent many an hour in that phone booth with piles of change talking to my boyfriend, later fiancé.  He would call me from phone booths in California after he was in the Navy, adding the quarters as the operator told us our time was up.

Sometime along the way, direct dial was invented, a miraculous thing.  And the prefixes we’d had in Tulsa changed to just the numbers.  Riverside 75973 changed to 747-5973, which was the same thing.  Novelty phones were the rage with Mickey Mouse, hamburger, clear phones and other fun things to brighten our lives.  As a mom, my favorite phone of the day was my red wall phone in my kitchen/breakfast room with an extra long cord that let me talk while I cooked or set the table or cleaned or whatever.  I was the ultimate multi-tasker as I worked on my volunteers committees, planned PTA events, changed carpools, scheduled appointments, all while I was doing my mom thing at home.

Oh yes, I still had a dial tone and used my dial for numbers, right up until I moved into my present home in 2002.  There was touch tone technology, but you had to pay extra and I didn’t think I would ever be so lazy that I couldn’t turn that dial wheel.  Eventually, I had touch tone because you couldn’t make long distance calls without it, but I still used that rotary dial until I moved.

So now I’ve covered over 50 years of my phone life and we haven’t even gotten to cell phones yet.  Technology was a whole lot slower coming and who knew?

The first mobile phone we had was a bag phone, a bag with a battery and a phone inside, that we kept in the car.  This was in the mid 1990s – way back then.  My husband got it because he was visiting customers all over the state and it was great for calling ahead, for emergency calls, and to let me know he was on his way home.  I don’t know how long we had that.  And I can’t even remember much about my first cell phone or mobile phone after that, probably because they’ve changed so quickly.   I had a pager when I worked for the American Red Cross and had to listen for it 24 hours a day in case of emergencies.  That was in 2001, so we hadn’t started using our cell phones so much yet.

The joke with our first cell phones was how small they were.  I remember someone on Johnny Carson trying to punch the tiny little buttons and holding up this little gadget to his ear.  But, they caught on quickly, very quickly.  Why wouldn’t they?

The day I got my first iPhone, I remember staring at it, absolutely mesmerized by all the information in my hand.  Wow!  I hadn’t even had a computer that many years and now all of that information was in my phone, too!  Look at where we are now with changes coming every year.  Amazing and wonderful technology.

So, I’ve got my new phone coming and am wondering if the larger size will fit in my small purse I carry.  The tiny phones that were the rage are now growing larger with expanded capabilities.  I would say that I use it as much for other things as I do for calls.

The irony of all this came back to me the other day when the land line, that I keep for emergencies and because I’ve had that same number for 47 years, quit working.  In order to test it, AT&T advised me to take my corded phone (meaning a phone with a cord other than the cordless ones that are all over the house) outside to the phone box and plug it in to see if it works.  I had to borrow a corded phone when I couldn’t find my emergency one, which is a little old beige princess model.  Makes me smile.

The other change is that I feel at a loss if I forget to take my phone with me.  What will happen if my car breaks down since there are few pay phones around?  What if I’m running late or my grandkids need to be picked up or where will my grocery list be without my phone? How will I find my way there without my maps?  What if I miss a text?  It’s a very vulnerable feeling, a sign of the times.

Oh well, I’ll have my new phone soon and we can test it Old School.  Call me!